My newly released Nearly Canaan is a thorough reworking of three earlier novels that were intended to be a series.
The publication of What’s Left and the revisions it prompted for four related books soon had me also reconsidering my Promise, Peel (as in apple), and St. Helens in the Mix novels. Sensing the possibility of restoring them to the original concept of a single big book, I made drastic cuts and still added colorful new material.
Here are ten ways the result is new and improved.
- The story is now primarily character-driven. It’s a richer brew. The landscapes now blend in as the backdrop.
- Jaya’s romantic partner gains more prominence and independence. His inner turmoil may leave her perplexed, but it’s an essential element in their developing relationship. He’s renamed, too, and refocused.
- He’s not the only ongoing conflict. Her professional ambitions in nonprofits management are more sharply detailed as she runs into organizational crises.
- She and Joshua become especially close to two other young couples. Everyone seems to look to her for answers, while she turns to an older couple for counsel.
- One exception is the pastor’s young wife in the opening section, who serves as a counterpoint to Jaya’s Hindu-based spirituality. The two develop a unique but clandestine budding best friendship. Wendy will return to bring the book to its conclusion.
- The new release compresses three books into one centered on Jaya’s influence once she leaves Manhattan. Can she really change lives for the better?
- The story is now connected to my novel Yoga Bootcamp, thanks to revisions that installed Jaya as a central figure there. The backstory provides a better understanding of what’s driving her as she settles into Prairie Depot and beyond.
- Jaya’s desire to find a suitable artistic means to express her mystical experiences is more clearly envisioned. She may be stressed, but her private discipline continues as best she can. She has to have somewhere to turn.
- The pivotal catastrophe moves to the middle of the book, rather than hanging at the end of what was the first volume. Can they survive and pick up the pieces and go on? That’s the stream that follows.
- Or, as I didn’t ask earlier, has Jaya unleashed a demon?
Be among the first to read it!
No to brag, but I’m in pretty good shape for my age. Admittedly, that’s setting the bar low. Still, there’s a lot I don’t like when it comes to getting older. For example.
- Everyday aches and pains. Well, I was fine until I took up daily exercise.
- Slowing down. I run out of energy in tackling chores, for one thing. An hour or two and I’m ready to quit. On the other hand, retirement has allowed me to focus more fully on my writing and reading projects. At least when the chores don’t get in the way.
- Balding and graying. Among other matters of vanity.
- Diminished sex drive. Ouch! Let’s not call it libido.
- Fuzzy memory. OK, I do have a lot more crammed into my cranium, but retrieving specifics can be difficult. And that leads to worries about Alzheimer’s or dementia. Not that I can stop any of the aging progressions, which could be a point of its own.
- Realizing all the babies in the neighborhood have now graduated from high school or college. At least the ones when we moved here. Or, for that matter, being called “Sir” rather than “Dude.”
- Being required to take a handful of pills every morning. Well, it could be worse, like rounds twice a day. Obviously, we’re not talking about recreational drugs, either.
- Seeing old acquaintances for the first time in years and being shocked at how old they’ve become. Sometimes I don’t even recognize them. Worse yet, they don’t recognize me.
- Overhearing things. Like the kid in the swimming pool locker room who turned to his uncle and proclaimed, “That man’s old,” when I’m the only other person present.
- And this. Realizing I’m now the oldest generation in many of my circles and expected to fill the role of the Old Wise One. The ones who went before were so much better.
What can you add to the list?
My As Light Is Sown blog is running a weekly commentary on my experience and thoughts arising in reading the Bible straight-through, from Genesis to Revelation. It’s a wildly varied collection of writings.
But if I’d have to pick my top ten books? Here’s a stab.
- Gospel of John: I’m intrigued by a counterargument running through the text that identifies Christ as the Holy Spirit more than Jesus. You’ll have to wait for the post to see my reasoning. The book is also called the “Quaker gospel,” giving me an extra interest.
- Genesis: It’s a bang-bang-bang way to begin the chronology, with human desires and conflicts at the fore, even that far back in antiquity. Much of the book would make a great soap opera, but for me, it’s more primal and fundamental than that. Although it often seems to be a telling of patriarchy, keep an eye on the women. And don’t blame Eve when the ball starts rolling.
- The Psalms: This collection of heartfelt poems, many of them written anonymously in the guise of King David, span a range of deep emotion. They’re rich enough that the Eastern Orthodox read six in their entirety each Sunday – the same six.
- Ruth: The whole story explodes into fullness on a single word – Moabite. But what an incredible love story.
- Song of Songs: This is an incredible poem of illicit love. Forget the argument about it’s being an allegory about divine concern and all that. What is religion without passion? Leave it at that.
- Esther: Again, a complex soap opera is unleashed here. The bad guys don’t get any worse. By the way, “chamberlains” in the King James translation masks a bigger meaning – they’re eunuchs, who play a surprisingly big role throughout the Hebrew Bible.
- Revelation: Read this as poetry, not dystopian doom or a blueprint for human destruction.
- Ezekiel: I was surprised by how psychedelic this book is. Whoa!
- Tobit: The Apocrypha, not included in most Protestant or Hebrew Bibles, has some lovely stories. This is one. Like Susannah, also from the collection, it tells of injustice, suffering, and ultimate redemption.
- Epistle of James: The epistles, most of them attributed to Paul, are a specialty unto themselves. As the brother of Jesus and a leader of the Essenes, though, James has special authority.
What would you add to the list?
When I lived in Yakima, Washington – like Joshua and Jaya in my new novel, Nearly Canaan – Mount Rainier was practically in our backyard, metaphorically, at least, and I got to explore it repeatedly, in all seasons. In addition, I camped in the Olympics and North Cascades national parks and visited Crater Lake in Oregon. I had already camped as a kid in the Great Smokies and at Mammoth Cave and have since probed the Everglades. I can attest that Acadia and the Cape Cod parks in Provincetown are prime New England. And Cuyahoga in Ohio was just to the west of a town where I lived and worked for four years after leaving the Pacific Northwest. Gateway Arch in St. Louis is another? Gee, this list of parks I’ve visited keeps growing.
Still, there’s a lot of stunning choices in the system I have yet to explore.
How many items are required for a bucket list, anyway? Ten or 20? Well, this is in my Tendrils category, so that settles it. These are all United States parks, by the way – an international list will have to wait.
- Grand Canyon, Arizona.
- Yes, in Montana.
- Yellowstone in its corner of Wyoming, Montana, and Utah.
- Grand Teton, Wyoming.
- Zion in Utah.
- With seven of the ten biggest parks, I’ll lump them all together in what could become yet another Bucket List. I’d definitely want to get to the Last Frontier by ferry from Seattle. Am I too old for a sleeping bag on the deck?
- Hawai’i Volcanos.
- Mesa Verde in Colorado. The Anasazi cliff dwellings, especially.
- Kings Canyon. Sequoia, Redwood, and Joshua Tree, all in California. I’d love to spend more time in the sequoia groves than I did passing through back in ’79.
- Calsbad Caverns, New Mexico.
What’s on yours?